Mindfulness When Your Life Stinks Part 2: Your Thoughts Aren’t Even Real

Thoughts and Beliefs

It’s funny that I’m actually writing this post because I can so vividly remember resisting this idea. My thoughts that I automatically and often subconsciously judge as good or bad aren’t even real. What thuh? I recall thinking, “If I can’t count on my thoughts being real, which btw have gotten me quite far in life, then where do I go from there? What can I even trust anymore?”

Oh, how young and naive I used to be.

I shouldn’t pretend it was so long ago! This is an incredibly complex notion to wrap one’s mind around. I routinely need to circle back to terra firma on this even though I understand it and it has my full buy in.

The notion that my thoughts weren’t real was a total bummer for me. Generally speaking, I had always really liked my thoughts. Most were funny, insightful, inquisitive, and clever, if I do say so myself. And they were a big part of my self-esteem. If you could see me now, you’d see my eyes wistfully staring off into the distance.

Oh, there were the negative ones too, but they served an important purpose. They let me know where I was falling short and, by gawd, needed me to know it. The notion that those thoughts weren’t real either just made me mad. I mean, where’s the power in beating oneself up, if it’s on false grounds? 

I couldn’t believe that the good ones weren’t real. And I needed the bad ones to be real in order for me to, well, feel bad about myself. Or to motivate me to change things or whatever bad thoughts are supposed to do.

I wish I remembered the exact thing I read or the specific thing someone said that provided my aha moment around this. But I can’t. You know when you hear something over and over and one day it so naturally clicks that it seemed like it was there all along? I think that’s what happened.

Who knows, maybe reading this will be the one that pushes you over that proverbial edge too!

Here goes.

The thoughts in our heads that narrate our lives need a serious reappraisal.

We get so worked up by them! We get so comforted by them! We get so hooked by them and think they are real. But they aren’t real. I mean, they are real in that they exist inside our heads, but they aren’t real in that they aren’t facts.

I mean, unless of course, you’re thinking of a fact. But let’s be honest, most of the time we are not thinking of facts.

Most of the time we are repeating the same subjective thoughts and beliefs over and over in our minds. The ones we constructed through a complex combination of nature, nurture, and our experiences. This combination creates a filter through which we take in all information and through which we form all our thoughts. We can’t help it.

And yet, most people never question that their thoughts aren’t real because it seems a) unnecessary b) inefficient c) weird and d) stupid. So they stay tightly bound to the ups and downs of their thoughts which lead to an emotional roller coaster of feelings.

There’s another way. And that is to acknowledge our thoughts aren’t real and get off the roller coaster.

So, if you want to go for it here are 6 things to try:

  1. Notice your resistance to the notion that your thoughts aren’t real.

  2. Frame this as an experiment. What happens when you have a thought and you tell yourself that it is just one possibility of that which exists.

  3. What happens when you try on different filters for the fun of it? How does that thought change?

  4. Allow the different filters to loosen your cognitive grip on the comfortable notion that your original thought was a real, meaning a fact.

  5. See how your emotions change with the different filters.

  6. Recognize that since you can choose your filter and your thoughts why not choose either neutral or good ones?